Belize strikes down law that criminalised homosexuality

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Belize’s Supreme Court has struck down a law that made same-sex relationships illegal.

The decision removes Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code, an anti-sodomy law which banned “carnal intercourse agains the order of nature”, and comes six years after the challenge to the law was initially made.

Caleb Orozco, plaintiff in the case and executive director of LGBT rights group United Belize Advocacy Movement (UniBAM), said he was “proud” and called the decision a “history-making judgement for Belize”.

He added: “This is the first day of my life in which it is legal for me to be me.”

It makes Belize the first former British colony in the Caribbean to strike down its colonial-era sodomy law, and LGBT activists hope it will encourage others with similar laws to do the same.

Before this moment, gay men in the Central American country of Belize faced a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for engaging in same-sex sexual intercourse, although convictions were rare.

Caleb’s lead counsel in the case, Christopher Hamel-Smith, had argued back in 2013 that even if Section 53 went unenforced, it still reduced gay men to the status of “unapprehended criminals”.

He also argued that the stigma brought about by the law meant LGBT people were much less likely to seek treatment or advice for HIV and other sexual health issues.

Global director of Human Rights Campaign, Ty Cobb, praised the country’s decision to strike down the discriminatory law and called the move a “momentous victory”.

He said: “I congratulate the LGBTQ advocates of Belize, as well as the countless legal experts and supporters who fought for this win.

“While Belize is the third country to decriminalise same-sex intimate relationships this year, advocates and attorneys from India to Kenya are diligently working on decriminalisation efforts in the 72 countries where such laws remain.”

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